5 Fantasy Football Studs in the NFC Nobody Is Talking About

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 24, 2012

5 Fantasy Football Studs in the NFC Nobody Is Talking About

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    In a conference that offers a surplus of offensive talent, it’s easy to overlook some fantasy football studs from the NFC.

    Aaron Rodgers and Madden cover boy Calvin Johnson are a couple of premier names who often soak up the limelight. Watch them play and you will quickly find out why. Rodgers displays more precision than Hawkeye while Johnson earns his Megatron nickname with overwhelming size and speed.

    After the top dogs rest, there are plenty of upper-echelon players who are not treated with due respect despite solidifying their position as stars. These guys have produced over the years but are overlooked for options with higher upside.

    Nobody will “ooh” and “aah”  or bang their fist on the table in frustration when you draft any of these guys, but they are all solid, dependable choices who deserve your consideration on draft day.

Matt Ryan

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    Matt Ryan is ranked in no-man’s land among NFL quarterbacks. Everyone is waiting for Matt Ryan to take the next step as a top-notch passer who can be trusted in fantasy leagues.

    The funny thing is, he already has.

    In his fourth season, Ryan tossed 4,177 passing yards and threw 29 touchdowns—both of which rank in the top 10 among NFL signal-callers. His 61.3 completion percentage ranks 11th in the league, ahead of Eli Manning, and he only surrendered 12 interceptions.

    Ryan has quietly developed into a highly-skilled passer, but he has not received much attention since the game’s elite quarterbacks have raised the bar so high. Ryan can still emerge as an amazing player while struggling to crack the top 10 list at the loaded position.

    His numbers will only increase as the Atlanta Falcons instill their trust in him to expand their passing attack with an incredible receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones. Michael Turner can’t handle many more seasons with 300 carries, so look for Atlanta to redistribute their play-calling in favor of their aerial assault.

    Yahoo!'s staff ranks Ryan No. 14, which suggests that he is nothing more than a prestigious reserve in most fantasy leagues. He deserves, however, to surpass Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III while closely lurking behind Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning.

Matt Forte

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    Any recent discussion about Matt Forte has related solely to his contract dispute with the Chicago Bears. Now that he signed a four-year deal with Chicago, fantasy owners no longer need to fear a dreaded holdout (Chicago Tribune).

    They also must remember that Forte was one of the premier players in fantasy football before spraining his MCL during Week 13. Before the injury, Forte carried the Bears’ offense, accumulating 1,487 total yards.

    Aside from stopping his pursuit of 2,000 yards, the injury prevented Forte from entering this year as a first-round pick and potential top-five running back. He should not fall too much further in drafts, especially in points-per-reception leagues.

    If you pick a quarterback or wide receiver toward the end of Round 1, consider snatching Forte on the way back during the second round.

Greg Jennings

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    Greg Jennings did not exactly put any fantasy football teams on his back last season.

    Jennings was well on his way to achieving another 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season before a leg injury cut his season short by three games. He still concluded the regular season with a respectable 949 yards and nine touchdowns, but Jordy Nelson stole all the attention in Green Bay by grabbing 15 scores.

    Nevertheless, Rodgers should be able to keep all his receivers happy in the Packers’ dynamic passing attack. While Jennings will never reel in 100 catches, he makes up for it with big plays.

    Since Jennings suited up for 70 consecutive games before missing action last year and returned for the playoffs, he should not be treated as an injury liability. In fact, Jennings is far from it, as a stable veteran who makes a fine No. 1 wide receiver for any fantasy squad.

Marques Colston

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    Although his days as the New Orleans Saints' prime wide receiver look numbered, Marques Colston made the savvy choice to stay by Drew Brees' side.

    The 29-year-old receiver will continue to play on the league’s premier offense after signing a five-year, $40 million deal during the offseason. Now that the Saints also handsomely rewarded Brees with a lucrative contract extension, the duo can prolong their stronghold over the NFC.

    After missing two games early in the season, Colston seems to carry an unfair label as an injury risk when he has been a beacon of consistency throughout his career.

    Even though he missed some action, Colston finished the season with 80 receptions, 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns—five of which he earned during the final four games.

    He averages eight touchdown catches a year with a career low of five during his one sub-par season during 2008-09. In the five other seasons with New Orleans, Colston has netted at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns each time.

    Colston does not appear to be receiving enough credit as a steady option for fantasy owners. Yahoo!’s experts collectively rank him as the No. 17 wideout behind the less accomplished Nelson and Demaryius Thomas.

Jason Witten

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    You can take a chance on Jermichael Finley learning to catch the football and finally delivering on his superstar potential. Awakened by his monster postseason display, Vernon Davis could take a leap into elite territory. There are plenty of noteworthy young tight ends to draft this season.

    Or you can just take Jason Witten, the closest player to a sure thing at the position.

    Last season, Witten caught 79 passes—his lowest mark since the 2006-07 season—for 942 yards and five touchdowns. Ever since Tony Romo took over the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback gig, Witten has shined as the NFL’s most reliable pass-catching tight end.

    Over the last five years, Witten has averaged 88.8 receptions and 1,014.2 receiving yards per season.

    He’ll never touch the prolific numbers put up by Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski—two game-changing tight ends who probably won’t repeat those stats either—but Witten is a safe bet to play every game and approach the 1,000-yard vicinity.

    Witten can fall through the cracks due to a lack of major upside that some of his younger counterparts possess. The dependable 30-year-old won’t let his fantasy owners down this season.